The Stories I Tell ~ from The Word Cellar

Stories. Anecdotes. A free round of words for everyone!

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I love stories. I'm the one at social functions with a dozen new anecdotes. But I worry about hogging the conversation. Sometimes I tell myself that I'll be quiet and let others do the talking. But no matter how hard I try, my stories insist on bursting out! Here I can let my stories (the classics that I tell again and again, as well as new ones that unfold along the way) run free. I'm a professional writer and editor, and sole proprietor of The Word Cellar. I write for a variety of publications and clients on everything from green buildings and nuclear reactors to entrepreneurship and the arts. If you need words written, edited, or enlivened, I can help. Contact me.


British Invasion

I hate reading blog posts that start out, "Sorry I haven't been posting for awhile..."

So let's just pretend I have been posting for the past week, shall we?

My touchy sinuses finally decided to develop into full-blown infection on Wednesday and I panicked. After all, I'm scheduled to be in Chicago for BlogHer starting next Thursday. I can't be sick! Knowing how these things go with me (sinus infections, not conferences), I called the doctor and managed to get an appointment and an antibiotic that day. I still have a throaty voice that sounds like a muffled Tara Reid impression, and just taking a shower makes me tired, but my daily activities are no longer limited to sitting on the couch being a mouth-breather. Sure, my eyes feel like they might pop out of their sockets from time to time when I blow my nose. But at least my sinuses no longer feel like they're jam-packed with Nargles while a Dementor sucks the lifeblood out of them. (Yes, I saw the latest Harry Potter movie. No, I have not purchased the newest book yet.)

I know that antibiotics are overly-prescribed, and that this is a dangerous thing resulting in superbugs that may one day consume civilization. And I know that there's no cure for the common cold. But the thing is, in my family, we don't get the common cold. We get knock-down-drag-out, kick-you-on-your-ass colds. Or infections. Or whatever. Call it what you will. We get sick and we don't get better until you give us the drugs.

My brother and I have been this way since childhood. One year I missed so much school that I needed notes from my doctor for every single absence in order to be allowed to go to the next grade. Apparently my straight-A's counted less than my attendance. My dad got a sinus infection over a month ago and is just now getting back to full strength. And that's after he took 10 days worth of antibiotics. In my family, we don't get "just a little cold" or "the sniffles." We don't even understand what people mean when they say that. Instead, we get head-throbbing sinus pressure, sore throats that render us mute, and mind-numbing lethargy worthy of mononucleosis. With the possible exception of my mom, who has an extremely high pain threshold, the work ethic of a Protestant, and the guilt complex of a Catholic, "colds" kick the crap out of us and put us out of commission for days on end.

Given this history, it was imperative that I get on an antibiotic at the first sign of illness. And it worked! Instead of spending a week and a half in a fog, I'm coming out from the haze after just five days.

But even I know that there are some things antibiotics really don't help. Like the time I had the stomach flu in England. I was about three months into my one-year stint as a volunteer with a London YMCA, and I had just discovered polenta. A young Australian couple from church introduced it to me over dinner one night. I thought it was great stuff. So I went out and bought me some. Unfortunately, it was the last thing I ate before I came down with the most wicked stomach flu of my life. At first I thought it was the polenta. Then I realized it was a plague from hell.

During my time in England, I lived in the YMCA where I worked. (And yes, there are least a dozen stories to go along with that!) But when I got the flu I was staying in my friend's flat next door while she was in Hong Kong for six weeks. I thank the Queen Mum that I was living there when that damn British bug colonized my Yankee body. Because the bathroom, instead of being at the opposite end of a long hallway, was adjacent to the flat's bedroom. When you sleep for 12 hours at a time and only get up to be sick and moan, you want a bathroom as close to you as possible. You don't want to walk past 10 other rooms to a shared toilet. I like to do my retching in private, thank you very much.

But when you're sick in a foreign country, privacy can begin to feel like isolation. I think I called my mom and literally cried that I wanted my mommy. Still, people were kind to me. My boss stopped by to see if I needed anything. The motherly Scottish woman from HR, who also happened to be the wife of the YMCA's CEO, brought me juice (probably Ribena), crackers, Lemsip, and Paracetamol. When she asked what else I needed, I faced the embarrassing task of finding a delicate way to explain that my bum was sore from repeated trips to the bathroom. How do you ask a near-stranger and co-worker for butt cream? I think I hemmed and hawed, dancing around the topic, saying things like: "Well, I've been using the toilet a lot... and, well, I'm a bit sore... Is there maybe something for that? A cream or salve, perhaps?"

A note on the word toilet. Here in the U.S., it sounds crude to say "I've been using the toilet a lot." And if I had to "go" while at someone's house, I certainly wouldn't ask, "Where's the toilet?" But in the U.K., that's completely fine. I was originally hoping to get to use the term "water closet" or "W.C." while in England, but I think it may be a bit old fashioned and didn't really hear it used much.

In the end, I made it through my bout of the English flu. But now, 10 years later, I can't even smell polenta without feeling sick and practically running to the bathroom.

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add to kirtsy | 12:38 AM


Anonymous Evad said...

"It is just a little cold." No, it is a McGuiggan cold.

7/23/2007 11:38 AM  
Anonymous Melissa said...

Yay for antibiotics !! Glad you're feeling better !!

7/23/2007 9:28 PM  
Anonymous Allyson said...

Yikes! I am totally with you on the whole retching in private thing. The last time we were in Texas, I had dark-chocolate peppermint ice cream with brownie mix-ins, and as we watched THe Birds with Chad's parents, I began to get the most alarming stomach pains. Sure enough, about the same time the birds were attacking the beach house, I was vaulting up the steps to the bathroom. Later Chad told me that they could all hear me puking my guts out. Yay. I am a very loud vomitter. :) And let me tell you, dark chocolate ice cream is NOT what you want to throw up. EVER. Think about it. . .and I still have trouble eating it to this day, and that is very, very sad.
Hope you are feeling 100% in time for your conference.

7/23/2007 10:30 PM  

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